Rolling Stone - 11/14/1991
"...[An] exceptionally acted comic framework....Leigh again proves himself a world-class filmmaker..."
New York Times - 10/25/1991
"...Very special....[The cast is] a joy to watch, both for the vigor of their performances and for the immense satisfaction they seem to have had in getting those characters together..."
Los Angeles Times - 11/22/1991
"...Marvelously eccentric....At once surreal and very real..."
Total Film - 02/01/2001
"...This is one of Mike Leigh's strongest....It's a perfect slice-of-life British drama..."
A.V. Club - 05/29/2013
"[T]here's a sense in which Leigh is playing rope-a-dope with the kitchen-sink genre, lulling the audience with familiar trappings while he lines up the next big punch." -- Grade: B+
Director Mike Leigh escapes the confines of direct-to-television films with this incredibly bittersweet slice-of-life comedy about a blue-collar family living in modern-day England. Wendy (Alison Steadman) and Andy (Jim Broadbent) are a good-natured couple with two daughters, Nicola (Jane Horrocks) and Natalie (Claire Skinner). As different as two sisters could possibly be, Natalie is jovial and optimistic, while Nicola is a discontented cynic with contempt for everything she encounters. When Andy breaks his foot and strikes upon the idea to buy a hot dog van, Wendy is reminded of what she loves--and loathes--about her husband. Gradually, Nicola is revealed to have a potentially dangerous eating disorder, and by the time tensions between the sisters erupt, Wendy must gather all her strength to keep the family together.
With LIFE IS SWEET, Leigh has pulled off a remarkable feat: He has made a film that is at once a raucous comedy, a poignant drama, and a heartfelt tearjerker, setting the standard for all slice-of-life films that follow. In addition to the spot-on performances of Steadman, Broadbent, Horrocks, and Skinner, Leigh regulars David Thewlis and Timothy Spall appear to add even greater depth--and comic relief--to the proceedings.
Life was never sweeter--or stranger--than it is with this oddball English family that consists of a precocious teen, a father with ambitions of becoming a hot dog vendor and a goody-two-shoes sister.
Essential Cinema |
Family Interaction |
Theatrical release: December 1991.
Filmed on location in Middlesex, England.
Shown at the London Film Festival November 15, 1990.